Back to school savings

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Have you clipped your “back to school” toilet paper coupons yet? In the collection of supermarket ads last week, I noticed the banner headline “Back to School Savings!” and the featured item was toilet paper. I will resist the temptation to rant about “back to school” sales that have been publicized since the fourth of July. (Who goes back to school that early?) But toilet paper? Since when is that a school commodity?

I suppose that when homecoming games take place there is the traditional toilet paper decorating of players’ homes. Still those games are months away. So I’m still mystified as to how ad agencies came up with the idea to feature bathroom tissue as a back to school item.

Come to think of it, many ad campaigns don’t really have a logical connection to the holidays. The Memorial Day tire sale? The Martin Luther King mattress sale? The “Mr Clean Magic Eraser” Mother’s Day coupon? I’m sure sales of any kind do encourage buyers. But I’m not convinced that linking non-related products to holidays will spike buying.

Rather than buying toilet paper for the student (or teacher) in your life, these summer days can get us thinking about the thoughtful things we can do to make a new school year less stressful. First, a little listening. Asking questions like, “How do you feel about going into the 6th grade?” or “What are you looking forward the most and what are you looking forward to the least about going back to school?” can help us be creative in supporting those going back to school.

For example, for the person who answers, “I’m going to miss the beach when I go back to school, ” one might tuck a seashell and a little note into an early September lunch bag. For one who expresses fear that the “work will be too hard”, it might be good to resurrect a school essay or drawing from a past year and add a note: “Remember this? You succeeded before, I know you’ll do fine in the new year ahead!”

Of course this is also a good time to dig into the old photographs of when you were in school and let your child make fun of how you dressed back then. Tell stories of the “horrors” and the eventually triumphs of your time in school. The goal is to offer reasons for hope.

You may have noticed that the bible has few references to schools. But there are lots of references to teaching. Schools, such as we know them today, didn’t exist in bible times. But the wisdom and hope that the elders possessed was expected to be passed on to their children and their children’s children. When we read the scriptural messages of courage and insight, these serve us well, whether we’re headed back to school or whether we’re facing our own apprehensions that come from illness, aging, job insecurity, boredom or addiction. Each new chapter of our lives is filled with a myriad of feelings, and spending some time with God’s word is like a grandchild spending time with a wise and hope-filled grandparent.

In addition to the beach novels that help us recreate in these summer days, I suggest reading some scripture and hearing it live in our places of worship is time well spent. And you don’t need a coupon for that!

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Pastor of St. Bernard's since 2013 and known for his engaging homilies and community presence, Father Ralph Sommer is also a treasured columnist for the Levittown Tribune.

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